Bill Pierce's
Nuts & Bolts 
"Print Permanence"
Last month we discussed the processing and storage of negatives and transparencies for long life. However, very few people, outside of yourself, are interested in your negatives and transparencies. They want to see prints or, maybe, projected slides. 

Producing color prints that have a long life is a bit iffy. Most prints contain dyes that will fade with time, usually less time when they are exposed to light—so someone can see them—than when they are put away in the dark (just one of God's little jokes). 

About all you can do is pick the current color print materials that have the longest life and reprint if something better comes along. Ilfochrome Classic Deluxe polyester base (reversal) and Fujicolor Crystal Archive (negative) materials are currently in the lead among the conventional materials using dyes. (A little common sense will also prolong the life of color prints. Less fading occurs if they are exhibited in tungsten-lit rooms rather than the uv-rich light from a picture window.) 

There are a handful of color processes that use pigments, instead of dyes, coated onto long lasting bases. Prints using these processes are expensive, but may be worth it to you, especially if you are selling color prints as art and the customer has reasonable expectations that his purchase will last. 

While some of these processes are not available in this country (Fuji-Inax Photocera Ceramic prints, inorganic pigments on ceramic tiles, have always had a perverse fascination for me), information on long lasting processes based on digitally produced separation negatives and pigment printing can be had from several sources in this country. 

A complete description of their pigment printing process can be found on the Ultrastable website at 

Printing services are available from EverColor. Their website at is currently under construction but provides easy email requests for information. 

Http:// is the website for Wilhelm Imaging Research. It provides information on the stability of current processes including an extensive list of digital printing materials. Henry Wilhelm was mentioned in last month's column as the author of the bible on photographic permanence, "The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs."  (Don't be fooled by the title; it covers black and white.)  You can order it through his website. 

Proper processing and storage for black and white prints is a little simpler. For fiber prints, proper fixation can be obtained in one minute by using "film strength" ammonium thiocyanate fixer (NH5, etc.).  This system, developed by Ilford, avoids the long immersion times that allow the fixer and fixing byproducts to lock onto the paper fibers. 

llford suggests a wash of five minutes followed by 10 minutes in a washing aid (Heico PermaWash, etc.), and another five minutes of wash.  During the wash periods I constantly move prints, one at a time,  from one tray to another of fresh water. When all the prints have been moved to the new tray of fresh water, the old tray is dumped, refilled and the process started again. This "move and dump" technique provides the very important complete changes of water, and the exposure of all prints surfaces to the fresh water. A clump of prints turning in the middle of a rotary washer or a big tray with a siphon does neither. 

Prints should be rotated continuously for the first five minutes in the washing aid, and at least intermittently for the second five. (Truth be told, my second water wash is usually a little longer than five minutes, nothing fixed, something that depends on my appetite and what's on television.) 

The best prints are further treated in dilute Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner or Agfa Sistan to protect them against what Agfa graciously refers to as "environmental influences." Treatment in selenium requires that the prints go through another wash cycle, but with some papers their is an increase in d-max and change in tone that makes it worthwhile. 

Prints are air-dried on screens, not put through a heated dryer whose transport or aprons could be come hypo laden after years of use. 

You don't think of RC prints as long lasting. Yet more and more prints are made on RC papers. Several years ago, a Kodak spokesman said that Kodak RC prints that had been treated with selenium toner would last 100 years. I think the accuracy of that statement depends on what they are doing during that 100 years. But selenium and Sistan have already been shown to prevent some of the decomposition that can occur to RC prints relatively rapidly under some circumstances. Certainly these precautions are in order if you find yourself printing more and more of your best work on RC. 

Black and white prints can be stored acid-free storage boxes. Added protection can be provided by putting individual prints in envelopes or sleeves of mylar, polyethylene or polypropylene. If your photo store folks give you a blank look, mail order supplies can be purchased from Light Impressions ( 

Last month, we told you we would say something about color slides.  Most photographers I know store their slides in "slide pages."  Avoid polyvinyl chloride; go with polyester (mylar), polypropylene or polyethylene pages. Low density polyethylene pages and 3.5 gauge polypropylene pages will occasionally stick to the surface of a sleeved  slide and permanently mark it. This is a relatively rare occurrence; the thickness of the slide mount protects the film. But it does happen; most of us can testify to it. There are 5.0 gauge sheets that are safer, and I recommend them if you are a "page person."  Me, I now store my slides in acid free cardboard boxes. It may be simple minded, but it's safe.  Besides, the slide never gets stuck in one of those little "pockets" and damaged when old butterfingers tries to remove it during a midnight editing session. 
 To say that these last two columns are only an indication of the steps you have to take to preserve photographic images is an understatement, but it is an important indication. I hope you learn more about archiving and process and store your images properly. That seems preferable to watching your work go down the time toilet.

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